Steiff plush animals are some of the most sought after antique plush toys. This is because of the high quality and historical importance linked to the Steiff Company. Margarete Steiff was the first to make plush toys. Her biography explains that Margarete originally helped her brother-in-law run a felt business. She made petticoats and children’s coats. She saw a pattern for making an elephant toy in a magazine. She made a few for children in the family for Christmas. All the children loved them, and another family member convinced her to make some to sell, and the first stuffed toy made its appearance. Margarete Steiff began to create patterns for other animals and began using mohair plush. As explained on the official Steiff website, Margarete was very particular about the quality of the toys and often said, “the best is just good enough for our children.” In 1892 the first catalog came out and one of the featured animals was a dog. Since then Steiff has been creating beautiful and lifelike plush dogs.
Steiff is identifiable for the famous button in the ear. The earliest Stieff dogs have elephants on the button or are plain. Later Stieff dogs have buttons that have the word Steiff on the button in the ear. The buttons are helpful in identifying how old a specific Steiff dog may be. Buttons that have an underlined “ff” were made between the years 1905 and 1950. From 1950-1968 the word Steiff is in raised silver script. From 1969-1978 an incised silver script was used.
Steiff dogs are a little more affordable to collect than Steiff teddy bears. To date, the most expensive Steiff bear was sold for $171,600.00, but luckily for the Steiff dog collector, Steiff dogs sell for between $50-$400. Steiff dogs are wonderful collectibles because many of them have a story that is associated with them. The Steiff Fox Terrier is modeled after the famous fox terrier Ceasar who was the beloved pet of King Edward the VII. Ceasar walked ahead of the king’s funeral procession in 1910.
Some of the Steiff dogs are part of the fashion of the era. Snobby the poodle came out in 1958, and was a part of the trend of the time. Poodle skirts weren’t the only things that were decorated with poodles. Black poodles could be found on everything from shower curtains to plant stands.
Steiff even sometimes made pets for dolls. The Ginny dolls were a popular doll made by the Vogue Company. These dolls first came out in the 1950’s. Her pet is often referred to as Ginny’s pup, but his name is Sparky. Sparky is a terrier and came with a leash, jacket, bell, and bow.
Taking care of antique plush toys is extremely important, because the materials used to make plush toys is very vulnerable to decay. If you want your antique Steiff dog, or even a new one to look good for years to come, you need to take care of it. It is important that they are not in direct sunlight. Moths are also a problem for plush toys. Display them with natural moth repellants like lavender or cedar. If you have just purchased an antique Steiff dog, a good way to get rid of any moth larvae or other insects that might damage the dog is by wrapping it in plastic bags and putting it in the freezer for twenty-four hours. This will kill anything that may be hiding in the toy.
Patent documents for Steiff dogs are also collectibles. These documents show drawings of the dogs often done by one of the Steiff family.
Short Biography of Margarete Steiff http://www.steiffnews.com/
Steiff USA About Page http://www.steiffusa.com